WHITE AND OFF-WHITE
I gave the coolies an extra tip to make up for the lack of a
•thank-you * and there is no need for the cynic to tell me that they
greatly preferred this bakshisfi to any social graces by which it
might have been accompanied. Their wages are so miserable that
they would let the sahibs spit in, their faces for an extra anna.
Sometimes the sahibs come very near to doing it.
None the less, the incident .seemed important. The British have
got a lot out of India, but they have never said * thank-you/ The
Indians have got a lot out of the British, but they have never said
* thank-you * either. It is a pity ; these things do help. I know that
there arc all sorts of awful little rhymes which people print on
calendars, about the importance of giving sunny smiles to cripples
and saying * thank-you* to withered old apple-women (whatever
apple-women may be). And I often suspect that the creators of
these moral sweetmeats find it much easier to part with a smile
than a sixpence. There are some of us, however, who like to smile
and give sixpence.
* Thank-you. Thank-you. What is the word for thauk-you ?'
I went through India asking this question, feeling stranger and
stranger, wondering if I was the victim of some odd personal
complex. Nobody else—British or Indian—ever seemed to feel the
lack of this word. Servants staggered into hotel bedrooms with
monstrous tin trunks on their heads. Nobody said * thank-you/
Waiters yawned at midnight tables while the sahibs guffawed over
their brandy. Nobody said ' thank-you/ People picked up things
that had been dropped, made way in buses, gave directions in
strange, winding streets. Never a "thank-you/ It made me feel
more and more dumb and churlish. I found myself inventing a
* thank-you* of my own—and odd sort of hiss accompanied by a
smile and a nervous twitch. It appeared to alarm those who were
its recipients, but it salved my conscience.
It was the Princes* of Berar who first told me the word for
* thank-you/ Of all the women in India she was the one who really
needed it least, for she was so beautiful that she had on y to smile
to make a man feel that he was being paid the most eloquent
-compliment. However, she was not an Indian at all; she was
the daughter of the ex-Caliph, and she had royal manners as
well as royal blood. She had experienced the same feeling* of